Morrissey, outspoken lead singer of '80s rockers The Smiths, has sparked an Internet storm with reported comments about President George W. Bush.

The Manchester Evening News said Thursday it had received a record number of hits after reporting on its Web site that Morrissey, 45, had interrupted a Dublin concert Saturday with news of former President Reagan's death, adding that he wished Bush had died instead.

Morrissey's record company, Sanctuary Records, could not confirm the remarks.

"We do not have a recording of the gig, but as far as we can tell, Morrissey was just alerting the audience to the fact that Ronald Reagan had died," the newspaper quoted the company as saying. "He then simply followed that up with his comment about George Bush, which was his own opinion. He is no stranger to controversy."

A newspaper spokeswoman said thousands of people, 90 percent from the United States, had contacted the site to complain. A few expressed support for the remarks.

Formed in Manchester in the early 1980s, The Smiths had a series of British hits and a large cult following around the world, with songs including "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" and "Shoplifters of the World Unite."

A longtime proponent of celibacy and vegetarianism who once wrote a song titled "Bigmouth Strikes Again," Morrissey drew criticism in the early 1990s when he appeared to flirt with right-wing British nationalism.

He now lives in Los Angeles and is touring Europe for the first time in a decade to promote his latest solo album, "You Are the Quarry."